Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Places like Los Angeles and Brooklyn tend to steal the spotlight of “cool” places to live. You’ve probably seen YouTube creators sharing their experiences of “finally” making it to LA to become a star. Or how Brooklyn is the place to be if you’re a hipster.
But what makes “cool” is relative. People from LA will tell you the weather isn’t really 80 degrees all year long, as it’s commonly thought to be. Like Hollywood itself, some aspects are just part of the allurement of these cities. And those amazing Brooklyn bagels don’t always make the crowded rush hour subway rides easier to swallow.
Of course, places like LA and Brooklyn are cool, in their own way. But we live in a big country, with a lot of cool cities that don’t get the attention.
Here are some affordable alternatives that have surprisingly cool things to do…
# 1 Fort Wayne, Indiana
Median home value: $99,800
Median rent: $661
Median Individual Income: $25,994
Fort Wayne has a beautiful 25-mile-long trail called The Rivergreenway Trail that runs along the banks of the St. Marys, St. Joseph and Maumee Rivers. Definitely an awesome place for anyone who loves to run jog, ride a bike or hike outdoors.
Hey, you can even become an expert family historian living here; because this city is home the country’s largest genealogy collection – The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.
#2 Evansville, Indiana
Median Home Value: $90,000
Median Rent: $707
Median Individual Income: $22,352
Evansville is a cool place to discover a new music act, pick fresh fruit at Engelbrecht’s Orchard – “an Evansville original” – or go to a wine tasting. One Evansville native says this city is “increasingly evolving into a bustling creative hub with food and spirits”.
Olympic swimmer, Lilly King is from here. King won 2 gold medals at the Rio Olympics this summer. And set an Olympic Record.
#3 Odessa, Texas
Median Home Value: $109,500
Median Rent: $890
Median Individual Income: $25,913
In Odessa, you can compete in a 5K obstacle race through the mud in the Buffalo Battle, go to rodeo shows, visit National Parks (3 of them), or even see a Broadway play at the Globe of the Great Southwest Theatre.
# 4 Huntsville, Alabama
Median Home Value: $160,400
Median Rent: $723
Median Individual Income: $25,814
Known as the “rocket capital of the world”, Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Here is where rockets are sent to space, the Hubble Space Telescope is managed and scientific investigations of space technology are conducted to help solve “problems of Earth.”
Downtown Huntsville has “the largest collection of historic houses in Alabama” and apparently “offers every type of residence you could possibly want.” You can jog or hike trails on nature preserves, fish on the Tennessee River, visit the North Alabama Railroad Museum, watch Concerts on the Dock or shop at a handful of antique store – all for free, living in Huntsville.
# 5 Wichita, Kansas
Median Home Value: $118,400
In downtown Wichita, the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers meet and there stands a 44-foot tall steel sculpture called The Keeper of the Plains, created by Wichitan and Native American artist Blackbear Bosin. A nice thing to see when you’re strolling around the plaza.
The city is charming with historic lampposts and brick warehouses from the 1800s. If you love commuting by bike (or at least the idea of it), you’d love Wichita. With miles of bike paths, Wichita officials are “hard at work” making this “a more bike-friendly place to live”.
# 6 South Bend, Indiana
Median Home Value: $83,100
Median Rent: $711
Median Individual Income: $20,787
South Bend is known for being really close to The University of Notre Dame. When Notre Dame Football has a home game, the city becomes a hot spot for visitors; making this one accommodating city to live in. Here you can eat your way through the South Bend Foodie Trail or rush down the rapids of the “first artificial white water course in North America” – the East Race Waterway.
# 7 Montgomery, Alabama
Median Home Value: $119,500
Median Rent: $818
Median Individual Income: $22,757
The Capital of Alabama!
The Wright Brothers built their flying school here in 1910. Just seven years after their first (famous) flight. Now a full-size replica of the aviation pioneer’s first plane sits above the overpass at the city’s northern gateway.
In Montgomery, you can see plays throughout the year at The Alabama Shakespeare Festival theater – located in the 77-acre Blount Cultural Park. Or take a free tour of the 2 million square foot Hyundai Motor manufacturing plant. Or visit The Alabama State Capitol, a National Historical Landmark, where Jefferson Davis became the president of Confederate States of America and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a crucial speech to end the Selma to Montgomery March.
# 8 Rochester, Minnesota
Median Home Value: $163,400
Median Rent: $801
Median Individual Income: $32,836
Since the 80s, Rochester has been “frequently recognized by Money Magazine” “as one of the best places to live in the United States”. You can see free concerts at Mayo Park, take part in summer festivals, go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at Quarry Hill Park, or just enjoy living in one of the best cities to live – like these Rochester residents do…
# 9 Topeka, Kansas
Median Home Value: $95,400
Median Rent: $708
Median Individual Income: $24,145
For 90s kids, the Oregon Trail was a computer game we played as kids that nearly traumatized us. But really it was path that lead American emigrants into frontier territory. And one area it crossed was the river at Topeka. It’s also home to the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site, which commemorates the Supreme Court decision in 1954 to end segregation in schools.
An HDR black and white image, shot in downtown #Topeka, by senior Media Tech. student Nick Ketter. ______________________________ Tag your images w/ #topekawestphoto to share your photography! Want to see more T. West student photography? Visit the Photosynthesis blog! Find the URL on the profile page.
In Topeka, you can take a walking tour of Victorian homes, explore wooded trails, tour the Governor’s Mansion, shop at Farmer’s Markets or check out classic bikes at Yesterday’s Motorcycle Museum – all for free.
# 10 Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Median Home Value: $134,600
Median Rent: $702
Median Individual Income: $28,516
Cedar Rapids calls itself the City of Five Seasons. Wait, five? Yes. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and the fifth one a reminder to residents to enjoy all the seasons and life itself. This city has everything from tons of recreational trails, an opera theatre, sports facilities, museums and libraries.
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